Notes on John (Pt. 10): The First of Three Passovers

[Notes on John (Pt. 9)]

13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written…

– John 2:13-17a

The Three Passovers

As noted elsewhere, the structure of John 2 seems to present the two elements of the Lord’s Supper (i.e. the wine/[the bread as foreshadowed in] the Temple), thus presenting to us the Lord Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”[1] Further adding to this interpretation is the mention of the Passover feast. This is the first of three Passovers mentioned in John’s gospel, and it forms an intensifying triplet, as do the three Christ-Woman narratives touched upon in a previous post. Comparing the three Passovers, we see the following pattern.

1st Passover  (2:13) 2nd Passover (6:4) 3rd Passover (11:55)
  1. Wine/Temple
  2. Discourse in Temple
  3. Money changers are cast out/The Twelve remain
  1. Flesh/Blood (figurative)
  2. Discourse in Synagogue[2]
  3. Temporary believers are offended and leave/The Twelve remain[3]
  1. Body/Blood (literal)
  2. Upper Room Discourse[4]
  3. Judas betrays the Lord Jesus and leaves/The Eleven remain

As we near the end of John’s Gospel, we see the Passover’s focusing in on the Lord Jesus more and more, powerfully showing us that the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the sacrificial Lamb of God slain for the sins of His people. We also see a gradual dwindling down of the numbers of people following the Lord. At first it is just The Twelve,[5] then there are hundreds (perhaps thousands?[6]) who follow for a while but fall away, until there are just The Eleven after Judas betrays the Lord. What seems to be consistent, therefore, is this sifting of the true and the false followers, beginning with the Lord Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple (which many understand to be a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy). J.C. Ryle writes:

I am inclined to see in this visit of our Lord to the temple at His first appearance in Jerusalem after beginning His ministry, a partial though very imperfect fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy: “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple.” (Mal. iii.1) While the Jewish nation was expectingthe appearance of a conquering Messiah with power and great glory, the true Messiah suddenly appeared in the temple and declared His presence, not by exhibiting temporal power, but by insisting on greater purity in the temple worship, as the first thing which the nation needed.[7]


[1] Cf. John 1:29; 35-36

[2] Cf. 6:22-59

[3] That Judas in particular is “the devil” is explained to us by John, but was not explained to the disciples by the Lord Jesus here.

[4] Ch’s 13-17

[5] Cf. 1:35-51 (cf. Matt 10:2-4)

[6] As hinted at by the five thousand mentioned earlier and “the multitudes,” which is perhaps another way of referring to the same thousands of people.

[7] J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 1, p. 111 (Banner of Truth Trust) [emphasis mine]


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